Democrat Peter DeFazio opposed Irish-registered Norwegian Air’s bid for a US permit
Chairman DeFazio (D. OR) was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 1986 and is now the longest serving House member in Oregon’s history. As the dean of the Oregon House delegation, he has developed a reputation as an independent, passionate and effective lawmaker.
In 2019, DeFazio was elected to the powerful position of Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Coast Guard, highways and transit, water resources, railroads, aviation, and economic development.
DeFazio has served as a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee since he first entered Congress in 1987. During his time on the Committee, he has served as Chairman or Ranking Member of four of the six subcommittees: Aviation, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Highways and Transit, and Water Resources and Environment.
Now as the populist leader of T&I, the Representative gave his first speech at the Aero Club of Washington and articulated his list of priorities that need to be addressed. First among the Chairman’s agenda is the DOT approval of Norwegian Airlines foreign air carrier permit.
As the Irish Times article, below, makes clear, he has problems with the EU’s loose labor and airline certification rules which allow a Norwegian company to receive an operating certificate from the Irish Aviation Authority with hiring, operating bases in Europe and around the world.
“The chairman of a powerful US Congress transport committee singled out Ireland in a speech warning about airlines’ efforts to skirt labour laws.
Congressman Peter DeFazio, who opposed Irish-registered Norwegian Air International’s application for a US permit, wants lawmakers to scrutinise airlines that operate from jurisdictions with cheaper labour than their home countries.
‘We see this model coming out of Europe, which is ‘Let’s go to a country with more permissive labour standards, ie, Ireland’ or ‘Let’s operate contract crews out of Asia’,’ he told the Aero Club of Washington.
Mr DeFazio has links to US aviation unions and opposed Norwegian’s application to Washington’s department of transportation for a foreign carrier’s permit to allow it to fly to the US.
He now chairs the US House of Representatives transport and infrastructure committee, an influential body that oversees the department from which Norwegian sought the permit.
Flag of convenience
Opponents of the application claimed the Irish-registered subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle was a “flag of convenience”, meant to skirt labour protections and use crews hired through agencies based in Asia.
Norwegian denied this, and the US authorities granted the permit in December 2016 following three years of controversy.
Members of US unions such as the Air Line Pilots Association, Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants donated €800,000 to Mr DeFazio’s election campaigns through special committees in the years before 2016. Those unions also opposed Norwegian’s application.
Norwegian Air Shuttle is struggling in the face of rising costs and tough competition. The group is seeking €300 million from shareholders and huge savings from staff and operations.”
The present Chairman’s views are congruent with Democratic predecessor Rep. Oberstar. The Flag of Convenience Argument, so well-articulated by Oberstar who had direct knowledge of the negotiations with the EU, did not convince the DOT decision-makers. Further the process of revoking or revising the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement and the labor article embodied in the agreement must involve the EU. It is clear that that the other party has no interest in deleting what it considers to be an advantage.
Mr. Chairman, while your position on the Committee podium is indeed powerful and persuasive, the Constitutional limitations on the House’s involvement in negotiating international agreement is nil!!!
In contrast, the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has substantial legislative jurisdiction over the FAA and its safety standards. There may be substantive arguments that the FAA should not continue its recognition of the competence of the Irish Aviation Authority to effectively surveil Norwegian and its far flung operational network:
Sending T&I investigators to the Gaelic Island, maybe a Congressional visit to Dublin and a well-publicized hearing or two would create a record justifying language establishing statutory standards like:
the number of inspections which a foreign Civil Aviation Authority must conduct of a certificate holder with geographically dispersed stations (decide how to measure the distances from the CAA?)
the number of inspectors required per station and/or visit
the frequency of reports from the airline to the CAA
the level of language competence of the CAA’s inspectors
a list of inspection targets—training, English language competency, powerplant and airframe maintenance standards
a specific set of surveillance standards which the CAA must impose on the 3rd country’s CAA inspectors
The T&I Committee leadership might even find some House Republicans and Senators who might support such new statutory standards for initiating and continuing bilateral aviation safety standards.
As aviation globalization trend escalates and the FAA becomes more dependent on cooperation with CAAs, there is a broad basis for such legislation.
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